4 Of The Best – Free Social Media Monitoring Tools

Social Search Strategy

For those of you starting to delve into the world of social media, you may be looking for some tools that will make the process of monitoring a little easier – without the large price tag. Whilst there are many high quality paid services, free options are very useful early on particularly if your organisation is unwilling to invest heavily into social media until a return is demonstrated.

This article details 4 tools that I think cut the mustard– and also lists a suite of other free tools which you may find useful. Whilst each tool provides some useful functionality they also have their draw backs. Thus marketers may want to use a combination of these tools to monitor their social media activities.

Addict-o-maticWhat does it do? Enables users to create a customised dashboard of the latest topical issues in their industry as well as tracking brand conversations across social sites which range from Twitter / Digg & Delicious to Bloglines, Bing News and Google Blog search.
Good for; Dashboard interface makes it easy to gain a quick snapshot of brand references and conversations occurring about your industry on the web.
Not so good for; This tool doesn’t pick up all conversations containing site links but is a great for identifying topical industry issues “passion points” or keyword searches using “brand names”.

What does it do? Provides a quick snapshot of overall site characteristics from traffic to site ownership information. In particular this site provides a “social popularity overview” – detailing social bookmarks, inbound links from Wikipedia, latest tweets and related blog content on the web.
Good for; A useful quantitative overview of a sites performance across social platforms.
Not so good for; Viewing the content that has been bookmarked and by whom – the site does not provide the ability to drill down on the results.

How Sociable WebsiteWhat does it do? Provides a simple way of measuring your brands social visibility on the web. The site crawls 22 social platforms from Facebook, to Twitter, Google Blogs, Flickr, Delicious and a range of others. Through the collation of results the brand is then allocated a score on the basis of visibility across the social web.
Good for; The site provides a quick benchmarking tool to compare your “brands visibility” across social platforms with competitors. It also provides a quantitative overview of your brand mentions as well as the ability to drill down results to access the results on each platform.
Not so good for: The brand visibility rating somewhat favours social networking video and image sites, and largely ignores social bookmarking / news sites with Delicious the only site considered as part of its visibility measurement portfolio.

What does it do? Samepoint positions itself as a conversation search engine, tracking the social landscape. Samepoint indexes everything from groups, microblogs, social networks, reviews, wikis, documents, videos and more.
Good for; The site provides positive and negative sentiment measures for conversations and mentions across an array of social channels. In addition the site pinpoints the most recent conversations / activity for your brand.
Not so good for; The site has a large index across network platforms such as LinkedIn & Facebook as well as good coverage of FriendFeed and blogs, however the site seems to lack coverage of social bookmarking sites.

Apart from the above, there is an array of other tools available. Check out the video below:

Are there any free tools you have found useful to monitor social media activities? If so share them below

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5 Considerations For A Web Analytics Implementation

Site Resource and Tools

After managing 2 web analytics implementations, I am beginning to lose patience with the leading web analytics providers in the industry. Over-promising and under-delivering is not uncommon and it seems the many marketing professionals have had similar experiences.

So is it all worth it?

The answer is yes and no, as the value web analytics can offer depends on your organisations needs. If for instance your organisation is in need of basic website statistics such as visitor numbers, traffic sources stats and basic conversion data, then an expensive product is not worth the investment. As a free tool, the value of Google Analytics is hard to ignore and it is even giving the larger Web Analytics companies a run for their money. However for large organisations investing significantly within their online channel, then web analytics is an important investment.

Thus before you make the investment in web analytics, I have detailed 5 of my most important tips to make your implementation as smooth as possible.

Keep some money in the kitty

Complex analytics implementations never go to plan. Even if a detailed specification is created prior to implementation it is likely that during the implementation process, unforeseen issues will emerge. Common issues can include;
– tracking inconsistencies post code implementation
– unforeseen difficulties to integrating web analytics within your existing site architecture
– realisation that an important metric/report has been overlooked during the scoping phase
All of the above can stretch the scope of the project and incur additional costs thus ensure that you have put aside some additional cash to cover these costs.

Ask for the expert

Project Manager
To ensure your organisation benefits from industry best practice, request a technical consultant / project manager from the analytics provider who has experience in your sector. Although analytics providers are unable to provide you with competitor intelligence, they can provide insight into how to customise your implementation to provide you state of the art reporting for your sector, to get the most out of the investment in the product.

Negotiating Your Test Period

It is not uncommon for complex implementations to take several months to perfect reporting. In the meantime your organisation is usually shelling out the monthly subscription fee even though you do not have access to any accurate reporting that is of value. Thus it is important to ensure where possible that you negotiate a grace period to give your organisation enough time to get it up and running.

Don’t overlook the value adds

Sophisticated web analytics products have very powerful functionality however not all organisations are blessed with web analytics specialists to drive the value from their systems. As a result there are 2 key value added products that should be considered. The first is the various training modules offered by the organisations themselves. Whilst the second is the use of consultancy services which enables organisations to leverage specialist knowledge from the analytics provider to create more advanced reporting and solve additional business reporting needs.

Do Your Homework

Google Analytics– Request a trial log in to visually see how some of the reports are displayed – there are differences between platforms thus this will provide you with a very good picture of the pros and cons of each analytics interface.
– Build a requirements checklist and have the web analytics provider present an online demonstration of how their system will measure and report on key indicators within the reporting environment. Running through a simple checklist about the systems reporting capabilities is not enough, viewing the systems capabilities will ensure there are no surprises post implementation.

Not all web analytics products were created equal. Before your organisation decides on the most suitable web analytics product, it is very important to ensure that it is fit for purpose. Once implementation is complete, it is both costly and difficult to switch providers thus the investment of your time during the initial tender process is crucial to deliver a position final result. Some of key recommendations I would make are;

I hope these tips are useful for those considering a web trends implementation. If you have experience in implementations and have some additional tips, please add them below.

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Online Analytics – Measure Relevancy In A Changing Marketplace

Website Visitor Analytics

Web user behaviour is changing and topics like content portability and offsite engagement are receiving more attention from marketers. But all the new opportunities that have come with the Web 2.0 phenomenon, has bought the inherent problem of measurability.

One of the key strengths to the online channel has always been its accountability – and thus this once very transparent channel is now facing a bumpy road ahead.

Exploring the complexities

So just what are some of the complexities of online measurement and what is the advice out in the market?

Engagement measurements not eyeballs are the flavour of 2009. But just how are the experts defining engagement? The first difficulty the web analytics experts must contend with is standardisation of how to effectively measure this concept. Forrester Research defines engagement as 4 I’s Interaction, Involvement, Intimacy & Influence whilst another definition has been proposed by an analytics expert which is 8 parameters and includes clicks, recency, duration, brand, feedback, interaction, loyalty and subscriptions.

Visitor EngagementBut do engagement measurements onsite and offsite differ and just how complex is it to measure engagement? I spoke to one of Australia’s leading digital agencies on the topic. “Measuring visitor engagement is complex. Measuring onsite and offsite engagement is hard particularly with the unpredictability of visitor behaviour online and offline whilst interacting with your brand. Engagement as a metric in itself does not exist in web analytics tools. Based on the measurement goal, the web analyst can manually calculate an engagement index from a combination of different metrics such as conversions, average sessions, latency or recency of the visit. However this does not provide us with a 360 degree view of onsite and offsite engagement” says Joan Tsepofat, Lead Analyst at Next Digital.

Despite a lack of clear guidelines, one thing is certain, qualitative feedback will play a much bigger role. As marketers start to grapple with new measures such as these there will be increased focus on usability, as well as focus groups and surveys to gather qualitative insight – whose role had been somewhat diminished by web analytics in years gone by.

As identified by Forrester, influence is a key measure particularly in the measurement of offline conversations and brand engagement. The old saying of “its not what you know, its who you know” is definitely important on the web. Social networking and micro-blogging conversations are virally distributing brand related conversations and measurements across the web but it is those who have the largest audience of followers that will have the greatest impact and influence. But to attempt to follow these conversations and aggregate the information in a meaningful way to measure buzz is not an easy task. One organisation who has started to respond to the need for marketers to track offsite conversations which consider influence is Hubspot – but this area is still relatively new and the next 1 – 2 years will be the defining years of the next generation web measurement.

Search Engine MarketingOn the measurement front, search is another area that is becoming increasingly complex to measure. Rankings as a measure is dead with the increasing importance of on personalised, blended and local search. So should search marketers focus on search traffic as a metric? This on its own will of course not provide the complete picture as search traffic may be growing at a lower rate than overall search volume is growing – thus competitive data sets will be of increasing importance. Joan Tsepofat highlights the need for business to invest into web analytics to help measure search traffic. Closely examining your traffic sources such as organic versus paid search traffic or other referring sources will assist you to better understand the performance of your search marketing activities. Similarly, web analytics should be the key to measuring the effectiveness of your search engine optimisation efforts” And what about brand interaction which is starts from search results and occurs offsite – how should this be measured?

Web measurement is obviously experiencing the growing pains of web 2.0. Senior executives must start to take a holistic view of engagement and begin to focus on what’s happening offsite along with onsite from an engagement perspective.

So what do we do?

1. Focus on what is important to your business. Whilst buzz and engagement is occurring – this is the same problem inherent with measuring brands in an offline world – so you need to determine how much time you can afford to invest based on the return. Don’t get too caught up in over-analysing and start by identifying some basic measures ie popularity of your site through social bookmarks or feedback about your brand and use this to demonstrate the value of your new activities.

2. Make sure when you are creating integrated online campaigns, that your agency is beginning to address some of the new challenges in measurement and not leaving this part to your organisation.

3. If you have the budget, consider increasing the number of tools you utilise to measure online performance. Web-analytics is just one piece of the puzzle and competitive data sets like Hitwise can provide competitive data to benchmark your site. Even if you don’t have the budget to invest in tools, usability sessions and online surveys can be conducted at low cost to understand how interactive and engaging your site is.

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Marketing In The Downturn – Part 2

Online Marketing

Part 2 of marketing in the downturn features how you can get more from your existing infrastructure and most important assets your.

1. Website Usability;

2. Website Success Events & Customer Touch-points

It is often surprising that organisations can liaise with tens or hundreds of customers everyday without effectively making the most of this interaction. As the saying goes, retaining existing customers is cheaper and easier than winning new ones – but if this is the case why does is so much expenditure aimed towards the acquisition process? From an onsite perspective review your current site structure to determine if your key interaction points effectively capture and contribute to your marketing objectives.

Sign Up FormFor example if one of your key objectives is to increase newsletter sign ups, ensure your site is capturing sign ups throughout the site by;

1) Ensuring the sign up button appears throughout the site not just on the homepage

2) Provides the ability to capture sign ups during the collection of contact details for transactional purposes

3) Captures sign ups during an initial enquiry through a contact form

From an off-site perspective, if your organisation regularly speaks with customers ensure that customer data is verified during discussions to keep your data fresh to facilitate ongoing interaction with your clients. This can also be taken further, to leverage all customer touch-points. Start by mapping the interaction process that your organisation has with your customers. By mapping the process you will be able to identify where your company could be missing an opportunity – both revenue and non revenue based.

3. Talk to Your Customers

It may sound simple, but we marketers can become so busy that we often lose touch with our end consumers. In this market consumers are becoming more conscious of where they spend their money and they are more likely to shop around. Now is the time to ensure you are in-tune with their needs, understanding where your product or service is not delivering on its promises. There are many ways you can facilitate such research – via phone surveys, focus groups and online forums. Whatever mechanism you choose ensure that you have identified clear objectives from the outset so the time you invest delivers measurable outcomes for the business.

Our 2 part series is obviously not an all encompassing list of ideas for marketing during a more challenging market. If you have other ideas, why not comment below.

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